By María Luisa Sotomayor, UNICEF Consultant, U-Report Chile Coordinator
In December 2014, we set ourselves to pilot U-Report in Chile, both through SMS and Twitter. In a previous blog post, we shared with you the top 10 things we learned about U-Report before going live. We picked up information on short codes, channels, legal aspects, and flows. No big deal, it’s pretty much what everyone has to know before launching U-Report in their country, but we hadn’t gone live.
Now we have, and we like it. We built a community of over 3,000 U-Reporters, from scratch, in two weeks and polled U-Reporters on sexual rights and gender identity. For the 2015 UN General Assembly, 13 countries, including Chile, asked U-Reporters “what is one thing U-Reporters would like their world leaders to do for children?” During the 2015 UN General Assembly, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador David Beckham unveiled a digital installation created for UNICEF by Google which displayed messages, including the questions asked earlier that week, from U-Reporters around the globe!
We’re currently setting up high goals, yet we have been very surprised (in a good way!) to see such rapid growth of our program in such a short period of time. U-Report Chile is live since last month and we’re polling weekly while trying to figure out where this massive tool should go to in order to better serve Chilean adolescents. We can proudly say we’re ready to go big.
These are the coolest and most awesome recommendations we can give you from our experience 😉
1.Duh. Recruit young people through their phones! Whatsapp is the new viral.
If we were relying on adolescents using their phones to voice their opinions, the smartest thing to do was to recruit them that way. Our entire SMS pilot was promoted via Whatsapp, with a single flyer explaining U-Report and encouraging adolescents to join. Good news: we reached our SMS piloting goal, we didn’t spend any money, and because word-of mouth is king, 69% of recruited U-Reporters were between the ages of 10 and 20. Score!
2.Twitter? Just go online… and only online.
Both our Twitter and SMS pilots were entirely different processes. When piloting SMS we had to focus on “the phone,” but when piloting Twitter going “online” was so much wider and challenging, as there are so many different channels and possibilities… With so much activity happening on social networks, we had to be smart and focus our entire campaign online, but the right way. We strategically partnered with Chile’s National Youth Institute – the government institution with the highest social networks penetration –and we suggested an online communications campaign with the following: cool videos featuring popular, young Chilean YouTubers for Facebook, Instagram stars as focal points, an online live recital of Shamanes, a popular band, and an online talk show about the issues we would poll on. Plain and simple.
3. You always need a carrot (or a few)
Anyone who has ever done campaigning knows that social networks don’t give you enough room or time to explain why your project is important. This, regardless of what your social project is about. You have 140 characters and a remote possibility of someone reading your message in their timeline. So you basically need a carrot (or a few): something cool, attractive, and encouraging that may have nothing to do with your advocacy goal. The rules are simple: first engage your audience and then tell them what this is really about. It’s not misleading if you manage to keep them engaged.
That’s why we invited young people to a free concert and an online show, and we gave away two tickets to Chile’s coolest YouTubers’ festival. The biggest challenge afterwards was to get people who initially followed the account, drawn by the carrots, to know what U-Report was about and to be engaged with the real message behind it. That’s when we would DM (direct message) them a video about U-Report and invite them to answer polls. At this point, answering all U-Reporters’ DMs was critical for engaging our young audience (and let’s just say there were a few…).
4. Your voice may be loud, but talk to those who can amplify it.
As mentioned above, we asked Chilean YouTubers, young influencers on Twitter, and Instagramers to star in our video to encourage our young audience to become a U-Reporter. The core message was “As an adolescent you have so much responsibility in Chile, and nobody has really asked you about it. U-Report is finally here and we’ll celebrate it with a free concert.” Our featured stars could potentially reach more than 2 million social networks followers (in Chile there are just over 1.7 million of adolescents.) Through their presence and commitment to share the video, we could dream of getting people to follow an account nobody had ever heard of before.
5. Use a hashtag, aim for national trend, and use all your contacts to achieve it!
The outline was simple: first we invited youth to follow the Twitter account @ureportchile, to join an online talk show and concert. During this online show, poll results would be discussed and looked at closely. But the show had to be a carrot, and we needed people to actually follow the account, so we decided on a hashtag and built a strategy around it. The strategy was simple: get as many people as possible to use the hashtag at the same time… and this is when NGOs come in handy. We were polling on gender identity, so we tweeted results to Chilean LGBT organizations, who immediately became part of the conversation. Long story short, within the first 30 minutes of the show our hashtag was a national trend (yeeeeiiii).
6. Don’t just poll…. TALK
We tested both SMS and Twitter in Chile, and there’s one clear difference between them: people in Twitter want to talk. This might sound pretty obvious, but it’s something we hadn’t initially considered. In our country, sending SMS is very expensive and people tend to be quite untrusting when you tell them they’re free (as they’re probably not… they never are). So through SMS, adolescents would answer our flows, but would think twice or maybe three times before replying to an unsolicited message. It was a complete different story with Twitter: U-Reporters tend to answer everything, and they tend to keep talking about it. Usually every poll is finished with a cool emoticon, or thoughts about what they were polling on. This is quite challenging as U-Report is finally opening a door to conversation… which makes us wonder: are we ready to talk?
Now the future is shiny, and U-Report Chile is ready to face the music. Scaling up is our next challenge. Figuring out a way to combine both SMS and Twitter in order to address Chile’s most vulnerable kids is another conversation by itself.